Friday, October 31, 2008

On fishing

I feel sorry for fishermen who spend years and years fishing, without knowing that it’s not the fish they are after. To call fishing an occupation or a sport would be to not understand that it is much more than just that. Fishing is not a job or a recreational activity. Fishing is not even about the fish. It represents the biggest human addiction – Hope.

A lonely angler sitting meditatively with a fishing rod on a boat in the middle of a peaceful lake, with the line in the water is not the most exciting sight. But that’s missing the point. There is a lot more going on just beneath the surface. Fishing is a mind game. It’s a marathon battle between the fish and the man. It involves great deception, guile, trickery and imagination. But you don’t see that. You only see the angler cradling a motionless line in a still lake. You don’t see the enormous living constellation swirling and swooshing under the calm surface. You don’t see the countless layers and planes and currents being worked out in the mind of the man. It is an epic battle of survival played out in a deceptively motionless environment, and it is all played out in the mind. A good fisherman reads into the mind of the victim.

I’m not talking about commercial trawling here. Taking a 70 metre trawler into the middle of the ocean and hauling aboard thirty-five tones of salmon – that’s not fishing. That is taking a bulldozer to a brain surgery.

Fishing is a game of chess. You don’t just catch fish. Novices catch fish. Real fishermen reap fish. There is no luck or chance involved in it. The catch is the reward for tough mental exertion. So is defeat. It is a reward. Only a true fisherman can see that. Fishing is not about the fish at all. It is a state of mind. It’s the attention to detail, it is instinct paired with imagination. It is a mystical game of possibilities; an enquiry into circumstances. It is chaos theory. The water is not a dull, featureless expanse, but it is a living thing. It is a delightful world full of treasures and riches. It is constantly moving and changing, like there is electricity in it. The fish too, are as fickle and transient as the magical sphere they call home.

You are the stranger. You are the one sitting outside their world, on its roof. You are the piece that doesn’t fit; the awful intrusion in what is otherwise a picture of harmony. A true fisherman never wonders about the one that got away, and knows that, in another world somewhere, a fish would have extended him the same courtesy.

All you see is line going into the water, and your reflection on its calm surface. But who knows what treasures or dangers lurk on the other side of the mirror? What is joined to the line on the other end is limited only by your imagination. It is whatever you imagine it to be, till the instant you reel in the line and make it real, and bring it out into this side of the mirror. Into your world.
It’s not about the fish. There is never a dull moment while fishing. It is a glorious drama involving two mortal beings connected to each other by a fragile thread- one weak and frail and the other strong and powerful. The weak one waits patiently with guile and cunning for the other to take the bait and thrash around for his life. It is the quintessential philosophical conflict. It is mind versus matter.